Groundbreaking technology in the form of drones could have a dramatic impact on the wine industry.

A device has been created to identify Pirece’s disease even before physiological symptoms are visible. Early detection is vital in hindering the spread of this disease which affects a vine’s ability to produce a crop.

What is Pierce’s Disease and How Does It Affect Vineyards?

Pierce’s disease can be devastating and there is no known cure. It is a bacterium that is easily spread by sharpshooters and can kill a crop in under two years. The Glassy-winged sharpshooter feeds on the infected vegetation, then injects the bacterium into the sap of surrounding grapevines. That bacterium multiplies in the plant, blocking the movement of water, eventually killing the vine. Although the bacterium is not a health risk to wine consumers, because it is spread quickly by sharpshooters, it can wipe out an entire crop before it is fully detected. Farmer’s rely on physical evidence of the disease like scorched leaves, wilting and limited fruit production to diagnose its presence in the plant. Often by the time physical symptoms appear, the sharpshooter has already widely spread the disease to other vines and because there is no cure, it’s already too late.

drones vs pierce’s disease, technology and wine
Source: Vectors of Pierce’’s disease include the blue-green sharpshooter (Graphocephala atropunctata), top, and the nonnative glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis), bottom.

How Does Drone Technology Help Reduce Crop Devastation?

This is when cutting edge technology comes in. Drones equipped with thermal-imaging technology can identify the difference between healthy vines and infected vines before any physical symptoms are present. These high tech cameras, attached to drones, can recognize Xylella fastidiosa, the bacteria that causes Pierce’s disease, potentially before the sharpshooters have a chance to spread it to neighbouring vines. The bacteria can be detected within hours and the infected vines can be removed immediately before other vines are affected and the entire vineyard is destroyed.

Pierce’s disease causes over $100 million worth of vineyard crop devastation in California per year. This advancement in technology can reduce that loss significantly.

Read More About Drones and Vineyards Here:

Wine Spectator on Drones and Pierce’s Disease

Drones in Agriculture

Drones in Napa Valley